Economic growth cooled a bit in the summer and early fall

Updated

Donald Trump turned to Twitter this morning to declare that we currently have “the Greatest Economy in American History!” I wish that were true. It’s not.

Dogged by uneasiness over trade frictions and weak global growth, the American economy’s growth inched lower over the summer.

Gross domestic product – the broadest measure of goods and services produced in the economy – grew at a 1.9 percent annual rate for the third quarter, according to preliminary data released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday…. The year started out with a surge, but the pace of growth declined in the spring and again over the period that spanned July, August and September.

To be sure, 1.9% growth isn’t awful. In fact, this morning’s figure is a bit better than projections headed into the announcement.

The GDP figure is, however, down a little from the second quarter, which was down from the first quarter. What’s more, growth in the third quarter of 2019 is down a full percentage point from growth over the same three-month period from last year.

This morning’s figures – which will be revised in the coming months – also suggest the president will again fail to produce annual growth between 4% and 6%, which is what he inexplicably promised during the 2016 campaign.

Indeed, Candidate Trump repeatedly lambasted Barack Obama for being “the first president in modern history not to have a single year of 3% growth.” And yet, here we are: in Trump’s first year, growth reached 2.3%; in his second year it reached 2.5%; and barring an extraordinary and unexpected shift, economic growth will almost certainly fall short of 3% again in the Republican’s third year.

Making matters slightly worse, U.S. job growth has slowed since Trump took office.

As for the image above, the chart shows GDP numbers by quarter since the Great Recession began. The red columns show the economy under the Bush and Trump administrations; the blue columns show the economy under the Obama administration.